Spider veins are tiny red, purple, or blue veins that frequently appear “tree-like” or “string-like” most often on the thighs or legs. Spider veins don’t cause symptoms, unlike varicose veins. However, most people find them unsightly and many people with spider veins choose to have them treated. They have a genetic component in some people, and they can’t be easily prevented. Other factors that result in spider veins include conditions that put pressure on the venous circulatory system, such as pregnancy or leg swelling.
Varicose veins are much larger blood vessels that become raised and swollen. They develop commonly on the legs and are easily seen through the skin. They can be quite tortuous and bulge as they travel through the tissues.
Risk factors for varicose veins and spider veins
There are many factors that can predispose people to spider veins and varicose veins. These factors include heredity, hormones, obesity, and female gender. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins and spider veins when compared to men. As many as 60% of adults develop spider veins or varicose veins.
Causes of varicose and spider veins
Any condition that results in increased intra-abdominal pressure, including tumors or even constipation, can result in development of varicose and spider veins. Because they can develop under hormonal influence, birch control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and the hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy and during menopause can result in development of varicose and spider veins. Patients with a history of blood clots may develop spider veins or varicose veins. Trauma or other injury to the skin, sun exposure (UV light), and previous vein surgery also cause varicose and spider veins to form in some people. Finally, people who spend a lot of time on their feet during the workday are at risk for development of varicose and spider veins.
Symptoms associated with varicose veins and spider veins
Although spider veins are asymptomatic, they are very unsightly, which is why many patients seek treatment. Varicose veins, on the other hand, are associated with aching or throbbing pain in the legs. People with varicose veins also complain of burning, tingling, and cramping pain. Some people describe heaviness or restlessness in their legs resulting from varicose veins. The pain associated with varicose veins can be relieved by elevating the legs or by wearing support hose.
Symptoms caused by varicose veins may also increase in pregnancy or in response to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. Sometimes, patients experience swelling, ulceration, and dark discoloration of the skin that usually occurs in the ankle region. Thrombophlebitis also occurs when a blood clot forms and the vein becomes inflamed.
Treatment for varicose veins and spider veins
In our office, we treat spider veins and varicose veins with sclerotherapy. This treatment has been used since the 1930’s. A concentrated saline solution or a solution made of glycerin or sodium tetradecyl sulfate is injected into spider veins, resulting in collapse or destruction of small vessels. Another product that has been useful for sclerotherapy is aethoxysclerol. After treatment with sclerotherapy, most patients will see some hyperpigmentation of the skin in treated areas, and ulceration or allergic reactions are even possible. We recommend use of compression stockings for 7 days after your sclerotherapy procedure. Other options to consider include use of dedicated laser systems of intense pulsed light systems for treatment of spider veins.
Initially, most patients will try a conservative approach to treatment of uncomfortable varicose veins, using support hose. We recommend weight loss for some patients, and good skin care is also helpful. Although some physicians may use sclerotherapy for treatment of varicose veins, it is not usually effective. Varicose veins are caused by collapse of venous valves that assist blood return to the heart. We recommend consultation with a vascular surgeon for treatment of painful varicose veins.
Call today for your consultation
If you are troubled by unsightly spider veins, we can discuss your options for treatment. Our cosmetic dermatology practice is experienced in the treatment of these spider veins. If you have a problem with varicose veins, we will suggest a consultation with a vascular surgeon for the best results. We have offices conveniently located in Beverly Hills, Encino, and Glendale. Contact us today at 310-205-3555 for your appointment.